When one is in between things, one must make lists. Lists help us organize the seemingly chaotic into the transiently logical. They help us process the random into rational and provide us with the temporary relief of neatness.
Nothing in our modern lives is more chaotic than love and marriage, and once in a while, when I am between places and enjoying the rootlessness of being in transit, I begin to make myself useful by making lists. I made this one for the sake of the greater good. My husband and I are in the middle of the second decade of our marriage and by God, we have a few useful tips to offer. This weekend I shall concentrate on the multitudinous unconventional ways in which one can put one’s spouse to use.
Life is short and it would be a waste if we stumbled on the best ideas too late.
I send my husband the best articles to read when I have no time to read them myself. Between him and me, one of us gets wiser every moment.
I take photographs of books he reads and Instagram them. He gets to read and I get to feed my attention-deficit hyperactive needs.
Every time I see him come near my desk, I remember I have forgotten to take my last dose of medicines. It’s as if the sight of him activates specific memory receptors. In fact, even as I type this, I am reminded that I should get up and pop my supplements. But of course I will only do it when he saunters past and I get the extra thrill of dodging the incoming paternalistic scolding.
I let him annoy the children so they come to me for respite. As we grow up together, I am less quick to want to rescue them when they look like they are trying to wriggle out of his company. After all, their unique relationship with each other needs its own space and it would be wrong of me to intervene anyway. Specially when it ends up rating me as the “cooler parent".
In the presence of relatives and others, I earn brownie points by acting amenable and credulous in his company. It’s a good break from having to be sharp and analytical all the time. He is my rest time.
He is my rest time when he is not being my un-rest time. The land of husbands is a relentless training ground. How to be firm and still seem loving. How to talk straight and still retain space for intimacy. How to let go and learn to lose arguments. How to not take criticism to heart. How to hold on to the dregs of one’s self-esteem when it is being demolished with love. I find all this practice very useful in the workplace and other adult hangouts.
Spouses are very useful for time-pass. You can look at them admiringly, you can ignore them, you can take photographs of them when the light is just right. You can get into an impromptu spat with them anywhere, anytime.
“Are you guys really arguing or is this a new way of flirting?" our oldest daughter sometimes clarifies with us. Often we are enjoying ourselves too much by being childish and she goes away muttering to herself.
Husbands have unconventional ideas on what makes us look good. So do wives. In our early, immature phase, we are often insulted by some of their ideas. When I was most proud of my cascading auburn hair, my spouse would insist that I looked best when I tied it all up and put it out of sight. Now I put his ideas to good use. If he insists that I look good when I don’t bother to look good, then why waste time resisting the idea.
I go wherever he books tickets for me to go. I let him set the alarm. Pick up the heavier bags, negotiate auto fares, choose the window seat and spend most of our holiday time sleeping. I want to be his rest time too.
I wear the day clothes he leaves hanging behind the bathroom door as my night clothes. Loose, airy, linen—it can’t get better than this. I let him host my friends and deal with the disappointment later. I let him lead the small talk with my parents. This is very useful once I get the hang of it.
I make cute lists about the spouse when I miss him. He is right here in the other room but it is more peaceful to miss him than to be with him sometimes, if you know what I mean.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker and the author of the books My Daughters’ Mum and Immortal For A Moment.
She tweets at @natashabadhwar